Eldrazi Winter Report – Part 2

For Part 1, click here.

Day 2 of Grand Prix Detroit

After some more play testing with a couple of friends Going into the 2nd day I felt confident that I had a shot at the top 8. I looked at this event like a PTQ. I needed a record of 4-2. Going into Day 2 with an undefeated record meant I would be playing against the best players and strongest decks from Day 1. Let’s begin with the matches.


Round 10: vs. Jund (0-2)

I was not expecting to see Jund. I recognized the name of my opponent, Jonathan Delano, he had recently won the Starcity Modern Classic a week prior to the GP. However, I thought he had won with Chord and not Jund. I was punished for this misread right off the bat. I had a pretty good hand if he was on Chord, a Temple, Karplusion forest Forest, Thought-Knot x 2, Kozilek’s Return and [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], but because he was on Jund a turn one [card]Inquisition[/card] hit me hard. He took the Bolt and passed. On his next turn he played 2 [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s and removed both my Thought-Knot. From there he took me out of the game on the back of a large Goyf that grew larger when [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] was introduced to Endless One.

In game 2 I mulled again. My first mull landed on a questionable 6 card hand of Temple x 2, [card]Eye of Ugin[/card], and Reality Smasher x 3.I had a few thoughts on this keep. I felt that this hand wasn’t keepable if his first few turns were the same as game 1. The hand has 0 interactions with his early plays like [card]Dark Confidant[/card]s. With all this in mind I went down to a 5 card hand and kept it. The hand consisted of Temple, [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], Karplusion Forest, [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], and [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card]. A Scry left Thought-Knot on top. Jon Thoughtseized me on the first turn, taking one of my bolts again. I ended up drawing fairly well; going from Thought-Knot, into Temple, into Reality Smasher, into Reality Smasher. Sadly, I couldn’t get past his [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]s he rained down.

It felt weird losing a match that I thought was favorable for me. As I thought over my match, and my assumption that Jon was on Chord, I took it to heart to never assume things. After some refreshing time out of the venue, I went back in for Round 11. I would do my best to just stay positive for the rest of the day.

Round 11 vs. R/G Eldrazi (2-0)

This was my first actual mirror match of the Grand Prix, I don’t consider my match against Mike Sigrist in Round 8 a mirror as it’s an aggro version. I was excited to play against the mirror as I had put in a lot of time preparing for it. It felt weird that this would be my first match against it as I figured it would be popular amongst the attendees. When it comes to the mirror match I knew that whoever was on the play was generally the favorite. Luckily I won the die roll. We drew our 7 cards, looked at them for no more than five seconds and said “keep”. We both laughed at what we each saw as an insane hand.

Some people might wonder what an insane hand for R/G Eldrazi is:
[sbplan]
2 Eldrazi Temple
2 Thought-Knot Seer
1 Reality Smasher
1 Eye of ugin
1 World Breaker
[/sbplan]

Two Thought-Knots by Turn 3 with Reality Smasher following up on those two is insane. You can’t cast the World Breaker with the hand above, but you have so many ways to get the G source within the first 5 draws. Of course I look at my opponents hand and it was pretty much a mirror of my exact hand. He did have two World Breakers in comparison to my one. However, I ended up casting World Breaker a turn faster than my opponent. We went to Game 2 soon after that.

The sideboard in this matchup is a bit different from the U/W matchup.

-3 Lightning Bolt
+2 Blasphemous Acts
+1 Ancient Grudge

Unlike the U/W version of the match up, your [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]s don’t hit anything, but an Endless One or Matter Reshaper so they’re cut. I included 1 [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] in this matchup to potentially draw into it early and destroy a Talisman or [card]Mind Stone[/card]. This is done so they don’t ramp too quickly into their Oblivion Sower(s) or World Breaker(s).

We didn’t really get a game 2. My opponent mulliganed to 3 and didn’t hit a 2nd land. I understand the need to mulligan really hard on this deck, but I feel like I can never go lower than 4. My opponent felt the same, but told me he won a game in Day 1 on a mull to 3, so I guess he wanted to retry his luck.

Round 12: vs. U/W Control (2-0)

I wasn’t expecting this at all. I knew of a U/W Control list with [card]Sun Titan[/card], but didn’t think I would see one at this GP during Day 2. Eldrazi is favored in this matchup; so you start to wonder how my opponent got this far. Game 1 went well for me as I had a hand with a one of [card]Cavern of Souls[/card]. He couldn’t really do anything in the first game as his hand was loaded with dead counterspells courtesy of Cavern. Game 2 ended up being just like Game 1, except I got my [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] off of a Turn 1 [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card]. From there I started ripping his hand apart with Thought-Knots. Uncounterable Eldrazi’s are just incredibly hard for Control to deal with.

Round 13: vs. U/W Eldrazi (vs. Gerry Thompson) (1-2)

Game 1 Gerry mulled to six and flooded out.

Game 2 I sided in my usual [card]Blasphemous Act[/card]s and kept a terrible hand because it contained one of them, which for some reason I saw as a snap keep. He Thought-Knoted me and saw a hand that only contained an Oblivion Sower and [card]Blasphemous Act[/card]. He took the Sower and proceeded to crush me before [card]Blasphemous Act[/card] could go online.

Game 3 came with a hard decision when sideboarding… Gerry had sat beside me previously in Round 11 and 12, and I also believe he watched me in Round 9 when crowds started to gather for that epic [card]Living End[/card] match I talked about in part 1. He was well aware of my sideboard, at least from my perspective, so I was debating whether or not the Bridge/Endbringer plan would work on him. I know it’s probably something I need more experience with, but I opted out of the plan and decided to just stick with the [card]Blasphemous Act[/card]s. I was hoping to draw into a good start.

I had a good hand, but I made a huge mistake in this match. There was a decision where I had a choice between casting Thought-Knot Seer and Endbringer or choosing just to cast World Breaker to take away his [card]Eldrazi Temple[/card].

As the video shows, if I had chosen to get his [card]Eldrazi Temple[/card] he wouldn’t have been able to cast his Drowner of Hope and I think I would have been in a better position. If I had led with the World Breaker he would have had to attack into it in order to turn on the dismember and get it off the table. I would have been totally okay with this since I had 2 Talismans and enough lands to sacrifice in order to play the Breaker again.

Instead, I ended up playing what I thought would be more efficient; Thought-Knot into Endbringer. Turns out he kills my Thought-Knot with [card]Dismember[/card], hits a lucky Drowner of Hope with the draw trigger, and draws another Drowner of Hope right off the top. After seeing his hand before the sequence of draws, I honestly thought I had this game wrapped up via World Breaker. He hit me for 8 on his turn and on my turn I had no way to remove his Drowner. I made a misplay here of not using my Endbringer to kill off a Scion Token so that he couldn’t tap my World Breaker when I played it, but I knew he had a [card]Mutagenic Growth[/card] from my earlier Thought-Knots so it wouldn’t have mattered. Had I gone with the World Breaker plan first, I think I would have had it.

Round 14: vs. U/W Eldrazi (2-0)

Dissatisfied by my earlier game against U/W Eldrazi I focused on playing better and crushed my opponent with nut draws in both games.

Final Round: vs. U/W Eldrazi (Huang Hao-Shan 0-2)

My last opponent in the Grand Prix was Hao. I knew my opponent was a National Champ from Taiwan and a regular in the Grand Prix circuit down in Asia. We were called to the feature match area as a backup and I talked about how my earlier match up at the feature table wasn’t a favorable one.

I lost the die roll, but kept a pretty favorable hand if he didn’t hit a Turn 2 Thought-Knot. As it turns out he did have it, and like I mentioned earlier in the article; in the Eldrazi Mirror you are more favored if you are on the play and can hit a Turn 2 Thought-Knot. He rolled me so we moved to Game 2 quick.

I asked him during sideboarding why he was here in Detroit and not at Melborne where the rest of his friends were. Hao was short of a couple of Pro Points to lock Gold this season and he said he wanted to come to Detroit in order to get used to the time zone for the Grand Prix at DC a week later. It made sense from a professional players perspective.

I can’t even read my notes, but I ended up stabilizing the board in game 2 up until the last few turns where I was down to 1 with Hao still at 15. However, I had 9 mana in play with a [card]Lightning Greaves[/card], World Breaker and Endbringer. When he put me to 1. He had a Drowner of Hope and a Scion Token untapped afterwards. He didn’t have enough mana to use Eldrazi Displacer’s ability and he had no cards left in hand. I had to hit a land off the top, [card]Lightning Greaves[/card] my World Breaker, ping his Scion Token, then cast Ulamog to exile his Drowner of Hope, and equip my Greaves to Ulamog to hit him for 15 exactly.

So here came my draw to keep me alive for this tournament…
I drew a land! I was excited only until I realized it was an [card]Eye of Ugin[/card], which I already had in play. I quickly scoured the board to see if there was Urborg I could use to cast the Ulamog, but sadly that wasn’t the case. I literally looked for a minute to see if it was possible to cast Ulamog ,but couldn’t see any lines, showed him my Ulamog and Eye, gave him my blessings for the Top 8, and conceded the game.

Overall Thoughts

My Grand Prix ended at 12-3 for 18th place. While I feel like the ending could have been better, I’ve learned a lot from this Grand Prix. I was asked, after the results, whether or not I felt upset about missing a Pro Tour invite, but the answer is “no”. Having gone through multiple PTQ’s in the past and losing 2 in the finals, one to Jamie Arch and another to Reid Duke online, I am well aware of how heartbreaking it is to get so close to winning but not achieving it. This is an experience many players have gone through and will continue to go through. I try to stay positive and think of ways to improve myself, rather than lingering on a bad experience. Psychologically I believe if you can learn and improve yourself from such bad experiences you will naturally get better as a player. I could have ranted all night and showed my temper to relieve some of my stress, but that doesn’t really accomplish anything, does it? Overall I still ended up doing well in the tournament. I gained more than the majority of the attendees. I have no right to complain.

Huang ended up writing an article on his team’s website a few days after the Grand Prix which quotes the following:

Meanwhile, I also felt very sorry for my opponent because I know how heartbreaking it is to lose a win-and-in after running so deep. I’ve always been blessed to play against nice guys rather than those who lack sportsmanship, because I’d be more comfortable regardless of whether I won or lost. Shogo wished me “good luck in the Top 8”, and I appreciated his kind words wholeheartedly. After all, Magic is a social game between people, and even though the prizes are big, we should not forget that nobody can win all the time but it is more important to be a good person.”

You can’t win it all folks. I’d rather be a player that can be respected than a person who dwells on his loss and refuses to let it go.

So that was my Grand Prix! It was the best finish but I hope I can continue playing like I did in the future. It’s funny how just a year ago I was complaining that I’ve never even made Day 2 of a Grand Prix, let alone make a Pro Tour Day 2.

What you should play before the April Ban/Restricted Update

Now that Modern Grand Prix’s are in the books and an imminent Eldrazi Ban is coming in April, it’s time to put Eldrazi to rest… at least after the Face to Face Open series this weekend.

Eldrazi should be the deck you take with you this weekend, if you are not playing Eldrazi, you should definitely be playing [card]Living End[/card], or something that goldfishes well like Elves. Given how U/W Eldrazi dominated the 3 Grand Prix’s that occurred during the GP weekend I would play one of those two if I wasn’t on the Eldrazi menace itself. Another deck that I feel is positioned well is the G/R Eldrazi Aggro version that was played by several of the Face to Face team members. It seems well positioned in a format where you have big creatures on your opponents board and can steal games by using Eldrazi Obligator’s threaten ability. They all ended up doing well with it, so it’s something to look at.

Of course you can take an unorthodox approach and play with what I have been spamming on Facebook: Possibility Storm.

You’re going to need a lot of practice and guts to play this deck if you want to do well. When I play tested with the deck online I did well enough to consider it for Detroit, but [card]Living End[/card] seemed better.

You have to test the deck out if you want to play something that isn’t Eldrazi. There are some cards that can work better than the list, like ritual cards, or even playing UR Storm and siding into a [card]Possibility Storm[/card] plan. That’s just something you as a player have to think about though.

Remember this; you will have more sideboarded games than pre-sideboarded games in Magic. If you want to have a chance at winning your matches you should play more sideboarded games than Game 1 and get used to it.

Making an unusual sideboard can help. In my Eldrazi deck I had 2 [card]Ensnaring Bridge[/card]s and 3 Endbringers. In a lot of the U/W matchups my opponent was locked out of the game because they had no way to interact with the Bridges as they didn’t see them coming. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box and think of a new game plan in your sideboard matches. That’s what I did to steal some of the games in Detroit.

I’m planning to sleeve up [card]Possibility Storm[/card] for this weekend but who knows? Maybe I’ll say goodbye to my Eldrazi deck one last time before the imminent purge.

Cheers!
-Sho

My First Grand Prix!

Grand Prix Detroit – Wrap Up

After 17 years playing Magic I finally when to my first Grand Prix: GP Detroit. I was excited, but a bit nervous. I knew there were going to be a lot of people; there were 2555, I knew my deck well; GW Tron, and I knew what meta I expected; lots of aggro. I had tons of questions though: What kind of players would be there? Are they all going to be better than me? Worse? Was I going to play against a pro?

It turns out that my first GP was a ton of fun, and it left me excited to play in more large tournaments. I wish I had known earlier that there are lots of other things to do other than the main event at a GP. Artist signings, side events, vendors, chatting with pros, friendly games, nice people, just so much stuff to do!

Deck Choice

Despite being a long time RG Tron player, I didn’t think the red, see [card]Pyroclasm[/card], in RG Tron was going to be useful in Detroit, but I wanted to leverage my skills as a Gx Tron player. Traditionally RG Tron uses [card]Pyroclasm[/card] to push the game late, but the current meta isn’t as susceptible to [card]Pyroclasm[/card]. I expected a lot of aggro in the form of Infect, Affinity, Burn, Zoo and Eldrazi. GW Tron is a legitimate, although unpopular, deck that eschews pyroclasms in favour of [card]Path to Exile[/card] and some serious sideboard cards. I ended up settling on this list:

GW Tron by Mike Pawliuk
[deck]
[Lands]
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
2 Forest
1 Plains
1 Temple Garden
2 Windswept Heath
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Eye of Ugin
[/Lands]
[Spells]
4 Chromatic Star
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Expedition Map
4 Sylvan Scrying
4 Oblivion Stone
3 Path to Exile
2 Dismember
4 Karn Liberated
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
3 Wurmcoil Engine
3 Tarmogoyf
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
3 Pithing Needle
2 Warping Wail
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 Path to Exile
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
2 Timely Reinforcements
4 Nature’s Claim
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

I decided on 3 maindeck [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] as an additional buffer against aggro decks. The sideboard contained an Emrakul for control, Ugin for Chord decks and Merfolk, and 3 [card]Pithing Needle[/card] for Affinity and the combo decks I expected to see.

The Main Event

I didn’t have any byes in the main event, so I needed to play all of my matches. The goal was to get a record of 6-3 which would be enough to get me to day 2 of the main event.

Rather than give a detailed explanation of each match, I’ll just give a funny, interesting, or memorable moment from each.

Round 1. 2-0 vs RUG [card]Scapeshift[/card]. In game 2 my Ulamog got Remanded twice and he Exiled a total of six lands.

Round 2. 2-1 vs Affinity. My opponent cast Dispatch on my [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] with only two [card]Darksteel Citadel[/card] and a Mox Opal. In response I used my [card]Nature’s Claim[/card] on his Mox Opal to take him off of metalcraft.

Round 3.
0-2 vs UW Control; Jaces, [card]Ojutai’s Command[/card], [card]Cryptic Command[/card]. In game 1 my opponent was able to answer 3 Karns and an Ulamog.

Round 4. 0-2 vs Angel Chord. In game 2 I mulliganed to four cards and promptly lost.

Round 5. 0-2 vs Naya Burn. Game 1 was my hardest loss all day. I got a [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] out on turn 3 on the play followed by a Karn and still lost.

Round 6.
2-0 vs Grixis Control. [card]Path to Exile[/card] was great here as it removed all of his [card]Gurmag Angler[/card]s.

Round 7.
0-2 vs Naya Burn. I lost game 2 because I couldn’t find a colourless source for [card]Warping Wail[/card].

Round 8. 2-0 vs Red Deck Wins (from old Standard). Twice in the match my opponent got blown out by not thinking about how burn spells interact with [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] and small graveyards.

Round 9. 1-2 vs Infect. [card]Warping Wail[/card] was impervious to an [card]Apostle’s Blessing[/card]!

Retrospect

Was this a good deck choice? I’m happy with my choice to bring GW Tron to Detroit. The meta was basically as expected, aggro and Chord decks, although there were fewer combo decks than I thought there would have been. I like my matchup with Chord, and I don’t think my Eldrazi matchup is that bad. Burn turned out to be much worse than I had hoped.

Could I have played better? I was generally happy with my play throughout the day, although I didn’t mulligan as often as I should have.

What card over-performed? [card]Pithing Needle[/card]. In matchups where it comes in, I was never sad to draw one or more [card]Pithing Needle[/card]s. In this deck we just want the game to go longer, and [card]Pithing Needle[/card] will do that.

What card under-performed? Dismember’s cost of 4 life was very real and often ended up being unplayable in the late game.

Enough about the main event! The GP was filled with tons of other fun things.


Side Events

I ended up playing in three side events. The most notable of the events was a 5 round Legacy event on Friday night. I played 4 Colour Loam, a deck I’ve played for a long time. The list can be found here for those interested.

Round 1. 2-1 vs Reanimator. I love [card]Burning Wish[/card] for [card]Chainer’s Edict[/card].

Round 2. 0-2 vs Bant [card]Retreat to Coralhelm[/card] Combo. I lost on his mulligan to 5.

Round 3. 2-0 vs Enchantress. I love [card]Burning Wish[/card] for [card]Reverent Silence[/card] against Enchantress.

Round 4. 2-0 vs Goblins. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] showed why he is the bane of Goblins.

Round 5.
ID vs Death and Taxes. We played a game for fun and he named [card]Sylvan Library[/card] with his [card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card]. I let him take it back and he named [card]Dark Depths[/card] instead. I let him take that back too, and he finally named [card]Thespian’s Stage[/card].

There were a lot of fringe decks in the tournament. In round 4 the match next to me was also Goblins vs 4 Colour Loam! This tournament made me appreciate how special having a weekly Legacy FNM really is. This GP was one of the few times a year a lot of my opponents get to play sanctioned Legacy, and I get to play it every Friday at Face to Face Games Toronto!

I also played in a miserable 8 person single-elimination Modern tournament in an effort to burn through some extra prize tickets. There were 3 Eldrazi decks, 2 Burn decks, 1 Merfolk deck, 1 Affinity deck and me on GW Tron. I might be projecting, but I got the impression that these players weren’t really enjoying themselves. Interestingly, the Merfolk player sitting next to me was AJ Kerrigan. I ended up losing in the finals of this tournament.

Meeting People, Making Trades

One of the neatest parts of the GP was that you could start a conversation with anyone. Whether you were waiting for pairings, in line for an artist signing, or just hanging out, everyone was willing to talk to you. Here are a few ice breakers to get a conversation going:

How has your day been going?
Have you played in any side events?
Where are you from?
What have you played against today?
Got any traders?

Speaking of traders, the Legacy [card]High Tide[/card] master, Feline Longmore, was wandering around the GP trading her alters. She graciously chatted with me and my friend about Legacy and the upcoming Columbus GP. It was definitely a highlight of the weekend to talk to Feline about Legacy.

There were tons of pros wandering around the convention centre, and for the most part they were very gracious. Kevin Jones was even slumming it out near me in the X-3 bracket!

Professional Event Services

The organizers of this event, Professional Event Services (PES), have caught a lot of flack for their running of GP Detroit. Some pros refused to go to this GP, just based on the organizer, and there is palpable vitriol online.

If I had to give them a grade it would be a C+. It was certainly a “Pass”, but they have lots of room for improvement. Things aren’t nearly as dire as people make things out to be.

The Good.

Judges: There were lots of them and they did an awesome job. I always had a judge within seconds of a judge call.

Scheduling and signups: It was always clear when events were going to fire and where to sign up.

Table space: There was tons of it.

The Bad

Time between rounds was 20-40 minutes. It was closer to the 40 minute mark in rounds 7-9.

Posting pairings was a disaster. The website was down (?!) and it took a long time to post pairings.

Announcements were barely audible.

It wasn’t clear that you had to wait at the Side Event Gathering Point until it started. It was easy to miss your side event and lose your entry.

Prize structure for 5 round events: 4-1-0 got 36 Tix, 3-2-0 got 2 Tix while 3-1-1 got 16 Tix. You were heavily incentivized at 3-1-0 to “concede and split” (19 Tix per person as opposed to 16 Tix) which lead to some weird rule-bending conversations.

Overall it wasn’t executed well, but it wasn’t bad enough that I would consider not going to another PES event, such as GP Columbus.

Going to other GPs

I’m really excited to go to my next GP, which will be GP Toronto on April 29-May 1. I don’t plan on playing in the main event, but it’s clear to me know that there is a lot to do at a Grand Prix even if you don’t play in the main event. Since I live in Toronto I’m planning on playing in as many Friday side events as possible. I’m especially excited for the Legacy GP in Columbus from June 10-12 where I will play in the main event.

Contact Me

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think; I’d love to hear from you. When was your first GP? What’s holding you back from going to your first GP? What’s your most interesting GP experience?

Catch me at Legacy FNM at Face to Face Games in Toronto, send me a message on reddit /u/mpaw975, or send me an email at mpawliuk@gmail.com.